Ditching age statements may damage spirits industry

12th September, 2012 by Becky Paskin

Appleton Estate has claimed The Macallan and other whisky producers’ move to ditch age statements on their whisky is ‘misguided’, and will have a negative impact on the brown spirits industry.

Joy Spence master blender for Appleton Estate

Joy Spence, master blender for Appleton Estate, is concerned moves to abandon age statements on whisky may damage the entire aged spirits industry

Joy Spence, master blender for Appleton Estate, which has just revealed plans to release an extra-aged rum in 2062, claims a rum or whisky’s age statement is a sign of the quality of spirit.

Speaking at the launch of Appleton Estate’s 50 Year Old Jamaican Independence Reserve in the UK, she said consumers had come to trust age statements as an indicator of a spirit’s flavour profile.

As such Scotch brands such as The Macallan, who are moving away from declaring age statements, were confusing consumers.

“To get rid of age statements would have a negative impact on the aged whisky or rum industry,” she said. “When you have that age on the bottle, you know definitely as a consumer that it has spent X number of years in the barrel. You know what flavour profiles to expect, because they have been naturally derived from the wood due to ageing in the barrel. It’s a sign of quality, and it’s not just true for whisky, it’s the same for all aged spirits.”

Her remarks come after Joy Elliot, brand ambassador for The Macallan told The Spirits Business this week that age statements had made the whisky industry “lazy and one-dimensional”, and mislead consumers as to the real quality of the whisky in the bottle.

“Time is important,” she added. “The wood imparts all the signature coffee, cocoa and vanilla flavours to Appleton Estate rum, but only over a significant period of time. We have one of the biggest stocks of aged rums in the world, so we are able to release rums of real quality thanks to real ageing, whereas a lot of producers don’t want to go down that road.

“That’s because they don’t have the stocks, so it’s worth their while talking about how ageing doesn’t matter. Someone had to have had the foresight to lay down that stock 50 years ago – there’s no shortcut.”

She explained that the use of several different methods of declaring age statements in the global rum industry had caused long-term confusion for the category.

“The consumer is a little confused in the rum industry because we have these three different methods – The minimum age system, which is what we and the wider whisky industry use; the average age system; and the solera system. The consumer is misguided when they see all these age statements, particularly if they are accustomed to the whisky system.

“I’d like to see one standard system but each rum producing country has its own law for ageing which we can’t change; we have no influence over it.”


One Response to “Ditching age statements may damage spirits industry”

  1. Ryan says:

    s an Ardbeg fan I feel a little at fault for this. I feel Ardbeg was one of the most successful with non age statement bottling that made others consider going the same route. And I admit I see their side of it, Ardbeg Uigedail, with no age statement, can hold its own with many single malts with a 18 or even 21 year age. BUT. I think ditching age statements is a bad thing. I want more age statements from ardbeg because to me age justifies price. How good something tastes is complete opinion. But spending X years in a warehouse demands payment for overhead. 3 yr old whisky can be amazing but if it’s coming from a producer of over 1,000,000 litres a year I don’t want to pay as much as I would for 10-18 yr whisky. Uigedail might be stunning, but there is no way to know there isn’t 3 yr old whisky in every swig, and for 70 a bottle, I should be paying to know it spent at least a decade in wood. I’d feel better about buying the Ardbeg 10 Sherry Edition for 70 than the Uigedail with no age statement. What the macallan woman points out about distilleries getting lazy is true, but it’s not caused by age statements, it’s caused by distilleries getting lazy. No reason to get rid a protection for consumers to suddenly get unlazy. In fact… if you want to get unlazy and help… ban artificial coloring.

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